Max Chilton adjusting to life outside F1, embracing Indy Lights opportunity

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Life has changed a fair bit for Max Chilton in the last few months.

The Englishman is, like his Carlin Racing teammate Ed Jones and team principal Trevor Carlin, fully embracing his new opportunity racing in North America.

Yes, his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races this year are on a race-to-race basis, but the plan now is that the ex-Marussia Formula 1 driver will be continuing on for the balance of the season on non-conflicting weekends.

Initially, when Chilton first announced he’d be taking on the Nissan LMP1 program in the FIA World Endurance Championship, it didn’t appear as though he’d be able to do both.

Chilton has raced at Monaco several times previously, twice in F1 and before that in GP2.

While many have dubbed Long Beach “the Monaco of the U.S.,” Chilton wasn’t quite so quick to bestow the honor.

“Yeah it’s my first time here and first time to L.A. as well,” Chilton told MotorSportsTalk during Thursday’s media lunch activities ahead of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend.

“I have done the West Coast before, at Laguna, but never here. I have watched a couple of on-boards and done stuff on the sim. I’m not comparing it here to Monaco, but it’s definitely nice weather and a nice environment.”

Between testing work and the opening weekend in St. Petersburg, where Chilton had the pace but not the luck on race day (best finish of fourth in Sunday’s Round 2), he has adapted to the new Dallara IL15-Mazda Indy Lights car.

For a development car, he does think highly of it.

“Yeah it was a bit of a shock to the system initially,” Chilton said. “I’m used to turbos from F1 last year, but it initially was like going back to F3. Still when you know you have it dialed in, you know it’s a good car. I’m looking forward to more races.”

Chilton also spoke highly of racing in America for further opportunities this year. At the moment, he’s bouncing between the U.S. and the U.K. as his Nissan LMP1 commitments have now featured increased testing here in the U.S., at Bowling Green.

“Racing in the States is definitely different from the rest of the world,” Chilton said. “You’re slightly more relaxed. It’s good, fun racing. Everyone’s here because they love it.

“It’s a nice change coming out to race here.”

For now, Chilton is dovetailing the Indy Lights and Nissan roles, although he’s optimistic Carlin’s future IndyCar ambitions will play dividends for him racing in the series in 2016.

“This is another good focus because Trevor wants to get into IndyCar next year,” Chilton said. “There might be an opportunity there.”

You can watch Chilton and the rest of the Indy Lights field’s race from Long Beach at 3 p.m. ET, Sunday, on NBCSN.

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.